A Kawakawa family is living in temporary accommodation after a New Year's Eve fire sparked by a falling power line left their home uninhabitable.
The power line ignited a shed containing fireworks and cyanide. But also, because of the resulting power spike, started a fire in a house about 200m away. The incident, which also cut power to Russell for two hours, was caused by the failure of a newly installed connector.
Cheryl Timperley and her husband Ken, principal of Karetu School, were hit by a blast of heat when they opened their front door after coming home from a barbecue about 11.30pm. They ran up the driveway to alert firefighters still dealing with the shed fire.
The fire started at a power socket in the TV room, burnt through the wall next to a barbecue and gas cylinder on the deck outside, and blew out a window.
Smoke and soot damaged 80 per cent of the house and the heat was enough to melt cupboard handles in the kitchen.
Only the children's bedrooms at the far end of the house were not damaged.
Mrs Timperley said she had quickly become an expert on showing people around the blackened house, and had been touched by the offers of help the family had received. "Our community is so loving. We've had so many phone calls."
The Timperleys and 12-year-old son Levi are renting a cottage near Kawakawa's railway station until their home is repaired.
Mrs Timperley said the high-voltage line was far too close to homes in the area, passing over her neighbour's shed and just metres from his front door, and called for them to be put underground.
Top Energy chief executive Russell Shaw told the Advocate the high-voltage lines would be placed underground within the next 12 months. Ironically, the failed connector had been installed in a first step towards switching the power supply from overhead to underground.
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